21. Jason Heyward (Braves): Heyward is now 24 years old and has four seasons under his belt. He showed promise in his rookie year only to get injured and fall backwards in 2011. He rebounded nicely in 2012 only to get injured and fall backwards this year. He batted above .300 in the minors but in the majors, his highest average was .277 and that was during his rookie season. While his numbers were down this year, there was one positive sign. His strikeout percentage was down to 16.6, and this was much better than the 21% he average the previous 3 years. Heyward is young with potential and a powerful bat, but with time missed in 2 of the past 3 seasons and other blue chip prospects called up over the past few years; some have moved on. At best I see him putting up numbers similar to his 2012 campaign with a slightly better average, but that is if he can stay on the field for the full year.
22. Wil Myers (Rays): Myers finally made his anticipated debut and he didn’t disappoint. Everything he had displayed in the minors he brought with him to the majors, including his high strikeout rate. In just under half a season he batted .295 with 23 doubles, 13 home runs, 53 RBIs and 49 runs scored. Including his minor league numbers he hit 27 home runs this year; not bad for a 22-year-old. His strikeouts are on the high side, but that could/should improve over the years. And while he did hit for a good average, be prepared for that to drop some in 2014 as pitchers adjust to him. He has a bright future and if it wasn’t for his age and inexperience I might be tempted to move him higher. If you’re a believer in Myers feel free to bump him up a few spots.
23. Domonic Brown (Phillies): They say the third time is a charm (well, fourth in Brown’s case). After several failed attempts to catch on with the big club in the past, he finally showed that he belonged. It was a tale of two seasons for Brown. He hit .273 with 23 homers and 67 RBIs in the first half of the season. In the second half he hit .270 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs. Yes he did have an injury in the second half, but the power abandoned him before that happened. While his bottom line looked good, take off that big month in May and his numbers look rather pedestrian. Its possible pitchers starting to figure him out in the second half and if that’s the case, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts in 2014. He is still only 26 years old with a big bat and potential, but his second half swoon and multiple tries to make it to the majors give me pause. I think I’d leave this one for somebody else, just to be safe.
24. Alex Gordon (Royals): Gordon contributes a little bit in every category but doesn’t do anything special in any particular category. Alex is very good for run production and he will usually give you numbers somewhere in the 90 range. His RBI production can be anywhere between 75 and 85, and his home runs will hover around 20. Gordon also has the ability to steal some bases as he stole 17 in 2011, but more than likely he’ll give you around 10. The batting average was down this year; otherwise it would sit in the .290 range. Gordon is nothing special, but he’s a solid contributor and a nice player to fill out your outfield with. At age 30, this is all you’re going to get.
25. B.J. Upton (Braves): I may catch some slack for this one, but it comes with the territory. Last year B.J. Upton didn’t just hit a wall, it fell on him…twice. Every independent report I’ve seen during the season says his mechanics have changed over the years, and I’m sure (or at least hoping) the people in Atlanta have seen this. Players don’t usually go to pieces this quick, so I’m sure (or again hoping) there is a plan in place to address his hitting woes. Now if there is a plan to have him work on some things this winter, consider it an encouraging sign. If they wait until spring training, it’s still a good sign but drops him down about 10 spots in the rankings. If The Braves can pinpoint what he’s doing wrong and correct it, you could be looking at a 20/30 player at a big discount. Fixing a player’s swing doesn’t happen overnight. The sooner they begin to work on his problem the better his chances are at being productive player in 2014. If you’re in a 12 team league and he’s still on the board come round 13 (where I recently grabbed him in an early mock draft), he could be a bargain. No Guts…No Glory.
26. Jayson Werth (Nationals): He’s been somewhat Werthless for two seasons, but this year Jayson earned some of that big contract along with some trust in the fantasy community. He missed the month of May due to an injury but otherwise his numbers were very close to the line he put up his last year in Philly. His stolen base count dropped, but that was to be expected considering he’s 34. I would like to say you can expect more from him next season considering how inconsistent the entire Nationals team was this year, but that would be asking too much. With the exception of his batting average (which should be around .290) I expect a similar season in 2014 with around 25 home runs, around 80 runs and RBI along with 8-10 stolen bases. He’s a solid third outfielder that comes with a minor injury risk.
27. Carlos Beltran (Yankees): Fantasy players left Beltran for dead after his injury collapse with the Mets, but he has rejuvenated his career the past two years in St. Louis. He has 56 home runs and 181 RBIs the past two seasons and has made believers out of us once again. Beltran has missed or been given off a few games through the season for miscellaneous aches and pains, but was healthy enough to play in 145 games this year and 151 games in 2012. Those numbers should rank him higher, but now the other shoe drops. He’ll be 37 next season so expect a drop in production. He’s a free agent so part of his value next year will be tied to his new team. And finally, the Cardinals do a great job at keeping their players healthy, so next year that job will fall on his new trainer. The combination of his age, leaving the fountain of youth in St. Louis and his sore body doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. He’s ranked here based upon his past performances as he still could be useful next season, but I suggest you view what he does on somebody else’s team.
Edit 12/07 – Beltran Joins Jacoby Ellsbury in filling out the Yankees outfield. Beltran gains some value and could improve over last years numbers (health permitted).
28. Curtis Granderson (Mets): Grandy belted 40+ home runs in each of the two seasons prior to this one so there is power here. Unfortunately he paid a price for that power as his batting average took a tumble and his strikeouts were horrendous. His run totals were over 100 each of those years, but a big factor in that was hitting second in the lineup. Several questions need to be answered before we can accurately rank Granderson. Where is he going to play would be the first as he’s a free agent? Where is he going to hit in the lineup would be the second question? He has more value near the top of the lineup but his new team might not want the free swinger hitting second. And finally how will his new swing for the fences demeanor hold up as he ages? Granderson will be 33 next season and while this isn’t old, a half second off his swing could mean the difference between 30 and 40 home runs. He should hit at least 30 home runs, but if you draft him have a few .300 hitters to cover his batting average.
29. Billy Hamilton (Reds): I Feel The Need……The Need…For Speed! How fast is Hamilton? In 502 minor league games he has stolen 395 bases, and he stole a base in the time it took you to read this. That kind of speed should get him ranked much higher than 29 but there is one small problem, he’s not the starting centerfielder for the Reds…yet. If Cincinnati doesn’t sign someone in the off-season you can bump Billy up right behind Wil Myers. His ticket to the big leagues is speed, but he needs to get on base in order to have value. Hamilton struggled with his average upon being promoted to AA and again in AAA. If he can hit for a decent enough average, Hamilton could steal at least 75 bases and possible score 100 runs. He is only 23 and still a rookie so nothing is guaranteed, but he has the potential to carry your fantasy team in steals.
Fun Billy Hamilton Fact – There was another Billy Hamilton who stole 111 bases for the AA Kansas City Blues in 1889. The other Hamilton stole 102 bases the following year for the Philadelphia Phillies and 111 bases the year after that in 1891. Only Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock have stolen more bases in a season than Hamilton. Do you believe in reincarnation?
30. Josh Hamilton (Angels): Many of you may be ready to write Josh Hamilton off, but I wouldn’t do that just yet. Yes his first half this year was (insert favorite expletive here), but he did show signs of life in the second half hitting .287 after the all-star break. 2012 may have been a banner year and while he may never hit 43 home runs again, he has the power to hit at least 25 to 30. I’ve already told you what he batted in the second half and that number isn’t far off from what he’s averaged each year. Josh also had 1 more RBI in the second half than he did in the first, which is promising considering that was in 100 less at bats. He’s had his ups and downs (in life and in baseball), but one bad half doesn’t mean he has no value. If he wasn’t a second round pick I doubt people would be as angry at him this year. He can be a nice complement to your top outfielder and could easily outperform his draft value. Expect a rebound across the board with 26 home runs, 80 runs, 90 RBIs and an average close to .290.
31. Shane Victorino (Red Sox): The Rodney Dangerfield of outfielders, he just gets no respect. Victorino usually bats.280 or above. He did have 2 years where it was closer to .260, but two down years out of nine is pretty good. On average he scores in the mid to high 80’s for runs with RBI totals in the 60 range. He doesn’t possess great power but has enough to hit 15 each year, and while he has lost a step over the years he should be able to swipe about 20 bags (and maybe a few more). Like I said when I talked about Alex Gordon, he doesn’t do any one thing great, but he gives enough in every category to be a very useful player. He’ll be 33 next year and while he’s at an age where players usually start to decline, I don’t think you have to worry about that here for another year or two.
32. Desmond Jennings (Rays): He’s had several years to make an impression, but I don’t think D.J. has made the one he had intended. At this point I thought he would be hitting closer to .300 with 30 plus steals a season and not the numbers we’re seeing today. He did make a few small strides this season. His batting average slightly increased, his doubles improved and his walk and strikeout rate each took a small step in the right direction. Small steps are nice but for someone who will be 27 next year, I expected Jennings to at least outperform Michael Brantley. He was labeled as an up and comer and someone with potential, but that ship is slowly sailing. He could still put things together and have that magical 27-year-old breakout season, and that is the only reason he’s ranked here. You can make your own decision on Jennings, but l would pass.
33. Christian Yelich (Marlins): He would get more attention if he played for any other team than the Marlins. Yelich hit for a good average in the minors showing signs of power and speed with a decent walk rate. His strikeouts are a little high which could affect his batting average to start, but he’s young and talented enough to correct this. His numbers during his two month tryout near the end of the season weren’t anything special, but they weren’t bad for someone who barely played 50 games above AA. He is just 22 years old so there is a lot of inexperience here and chances for growing pains, but he has the same kind of power/speed upside that Desmond Jennings had when he was first called up (and everyone jumped on him). Don’t draft him too early but don’t wait too long either. You might find a few players listed below that can give you better numbers, but most of them don’t have any upside.
34. Nelson Cruz (Free Agent): Cruz is the player that you love to hate. If you average out the past three years you get a .263 batting average with 26 home runs, 84 RBIs, 67 runs scored and 7 stolen bases. With the exception of the low run totals those numbers look pretty nice, but now for the bad news. Cruz has had only one healthy season in the past four years. If you take out his 2012 season and average out the other 3, it comes out to 114 games a season. If you draft him you’ll get some nice home run and RBI totals, but you’ll also need an adequate backup for when he goes down.
There is some concern with here with the PED suspension, but unlike Melky Cabrera it’s not like Cruz just starting hitting home runs out of nowhere. He’s had at least 20 a season dating back to 2004 so his power is real, and whatever he took/was taking sure didn’t keep him healthy so I would dismiss any concern you had on this subject. Cruz is a free agent, but Texas has stated they will make a qualifying offer of close to 14 million. If he accepts their offer then he keeps his spot in the rankings, but if he declines it could drop dramatically as his home numbers are much better than they are on the road.
35. Austin Jackson (Tigers): Each year Jackson shows us just enough to raise our hopes that a breakout could be coming, but in the end the only thing we’re left with are very pedestrian numbers. You would think that someone who had Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera protecting them in the lineup would produce more, but that hasn’t been the case. A.J. doesn’t have great power but will reach double digits. His asset is his speed but that has been absent the past two seasons. His batting average changes from one season to the next between .250 and .300. The one dependable thing about him is that he’ll give you around 100 runs each season. Jackson will be 27 next year and if there was ever a point that he was going to step up to the plate and deliver on his potential, it’s right now. You can do worse, but you can probably do much better
36. Alfonso Soriano (Yankees): Alfonso is right back where it all started. The soon to be 38-year-old is back with the Yankees and the funny thing is his home run and RBI totals are almost where they were when he left in 2003. Very few players maintain this kind of production after the age of 35, but I guess Soriano didn’t get the memo. With the exception of his age and his .260 batting average, you can’t really find any other negatives about Soriano. He can still hit 30 home runs in a season and playing in the new Yankees stadium will certainly help his cause. Alfonso has surpassed 100 RBIs for the past 2 season and there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again, or at least come close. He’s a risk in age only, but find a player ranked below Soriano that will come close to 30 homers.
37. Michael Bourn (Indians): It was a slow year for the speedster. His runs, batting average, walks and stolen base totals were all down. Many drafted Bourn hoping for another 40+ stolen base season but all he managed was 23. He stole 42 the year before and 61 in 2011 so I hope this just a down year and not a sign of things to come. He’ll only be 31 next season so it’s not like Bourn is old or on the decline. He could/should bounce back next season and give you numbers between what he’s done the past two years, but if the loss of speed the past two years worries you then find your stolen bases elsewhere.
38. Leonys Martin (Rangers): Did someone say they were looking for stolen bases? Martin could be everything we hoped Austin Jackson could be. His first season wasn’t anything special, but it he showed enough to give us signs of things to come. Martin stole 36 bases this year hitting between the leadoff spot and ninth. He was overmatched by lefties (as most rookies are) and struggled on the road (like most Rangers hitters). He has double-digit power but I think he’s still a year away from potentially reaching 20. If he can show some improvement next year against lefties and take some walks, I can see a batting average close to .280 with 10-12 homers and close to 40 steals. Granted that’s all guesswork and based on hope, but sometimes that’s all we have when it comes to our fourth outfielder.
39. Alejandro De Aza (White Sox): After toiling away in the Marlins farm system for 7 years and several failed attempts to break in with the big club he was shipped to Chicago. We saw an immediate change in Alejandro during the two-years he spent in AAA and in 2012 the White Sox brought him up. Since then he’s been a man on a mission. While his batting average sank to .264, he smacked 17 home runs and stole 20 bases in the leadoff spot. Sometimes all you need is a fresh start. He’s always been able to steal bases so the speed is for real, but the power is something he seemed to develop during his time with the Sox’s minor league club. De Aza turns 30 next year so there is no potential or upside, but a repeat of last year’s numbers is entirely possible with a chance to reach the 20/20 plateau.
40. Carl Crawford (Dodgers): Once he was a player envied in many keeper leagues and now he’s the guy we just want to stay healthy long enough to give us a decent season. Crawford is only 32 so he’s not old, but he broke into the league when he was 20 so he seems old to many of us. The injury issues have mainly been the past two seasons (and a little time in 2008) so maybe it was just a bad stretch. Before his injury this year he was on pace to reach 20 stolen bases so the wheels still work. Crawford only managed to hit 6 long balls, but he did have 30 doubles so maybe he’s getting his swing back. Experts predicted a rebound this year and it partially came true. Maybe next year?
41. Torii Hunter (Tigers): Hunter may turn 39 next year, but he is aging gracefully. Over the past 3 seasons he has managed to score at least 80 runs and knock in 82. The power may have dwindled but there is still enough left in the tank to hit 15. His batting average has been above .300 for the past two seasons and while I expect that to come down some, stranger things have happened. Hunter has also been relatively healthy during his long career so if he does go down it won’t be because of conditioning. He played all his games in right field but I suspect Detroit may use him more at DH next season if only to preserve his body some. He spent the year hitting second with the best protection money can buy hitting behind him. He may regress some (or not), but I don’t see any reason he can’t come close to what he’s averaged the past 3 years. He’s a stable and solid fourth outfielder to plug the gap while those rookies on your bench mature.
42. A.J. Pollock (Diamondbacks): Something about this kid intrigues me. He put up a very good batting average in college and the minor leagues. He has enough pop in his bat to hit 15 home runs with the possibility for a little more. He stole 67 bases in the minors over 302 games so he has some speed in his game. The Diamondbacks have not settled on a place for him in the lineup, but it appears that they want him hitting at the top of the order. The former first round pick went virtually unnoticed this season, but don’t make that mistake next season. He’s primed for a breakout and could easily be one of the better third outfield options come 2015. Sleeper Material.
43. Ben Revere (Phillies): If not for an injury Revere would have had his second 40 steal season. He stole 160 bases in 403 minor league games so he can improve on the 40 he stole in 2012. Big Ben hit at or above .300 the past two season which is exactly what he did in the minors. It appears The Phillies will keep him at the top of the order so there should be plenty of run scoring opportunities, but he’ll be at the mercy of an aging lineup. If you’re looking for power then look elsewhere as he’ll be lucky to hit two over the wall, and his RBI chances will be limited so don’t expect more than 40. He’s a 2 category player that will give you a decent run total. He’s one of the safer stolen base threats
44. Adam Eaton (Diamondbacks): In the minors and in College Eaton had a better batting average and a little more power and speed than his outfield mate A.J. Pollock, but he has failed to display any of that in his two attempts in the majors. He showed a flash of his potential in August when he batted .312 but that quickly vanished. He might have come in overconfident after beating on the pitchers in the PCL so he may need a full year to adjust. He turns 25 at the end of the year and Arizona should give him every opportunity to prove himself. He’s a quick study and while he might start slow, he should be fine by the end of the season. Draft him as a bench player but don’t depend on him as your starter at the beginning of the season.
45. Michael Brantley (Indians): With each year Brantley continues to show improvement. This year he maintained his batting average while increasing his home runs, stolen bases and RBI production. He is slowly becoming the player we hoped he would be when he came up from the minors. He may not have much more to offer in the power department, but he should be able to give us some more stolen bases. Brantley was a 30+ stolen base guy in the minors and while we have not seen that yet, he should be able to surpass 20 next year given the growth we’ve seen from him. His run and RBI totals are hard to pin down as Cleveland has yet to find a steady place for him in the order. Expect a repeat of last year’s totals until they do. He should take another small step forward next year, but a breakout is also possible as he will turn 27 in May. Regardless he’s a solid and safe choice for your fourth outfield slot.
46. Darin Ruf (Phillies): This ranking is tentative as Ruf isn’t guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster. He can be a defensive liability in the outfield and is more suited for first base, but that’s not going to happen as long as Ryan Howard is still around. Still, his bat is major league ready and The Phillies are in need of an overhaul. He has enough power to hit 25-30 home runs as soon as next year. He should be able to draw enough walks which is a plus, but he will counter that with a high number of strikeouts. He hit close to .300 in college and in the minors, but I expect something closer to .270 for his first full year. He’s not a kid as he’ll be 28 in July, but don’t hold that against him. He’s a batting average risk due to his strikeouts, but you’re drafting him for his power. His upside makes him a better risk to take then some of those ranked below him.
47. Dexter Fowler (Astros): For the first half of the season it seemed Dexter had finally arrived. He batted .284 with 10 home runs, 13 stolen bases, scored 51 runs and all seemed good. In the second half he hit .221 with 2 home runs and 6 stolen bases. Well, it was nice while it lasted. His final line was a mirror image of last season except the batting average was more in line to what he gave us his first four years. Fowler has averaged 73 runs, 45 RBIs and a .265 batting average since he came into the league so I don’t see much of an increase here. Add on 12 home runs and maybe 20 stolen bases and you’ve got a very unimpressive fifth outfielder or bench guy. Dexter will be 28 next year and while there is still a chance he could improve; it’s only a small one.
Edit: 12/03 – Fowler has been traded to the Astros. With his new park and division, I think what ever value Fowler had has gone out the window. Maybe the change of address will do him good, but I’d rather find that out watching him on somebody elses team.
48. Brett Gardner (Yankees): It was somewhat of a disappointing year for Gardner. His walk rate and runs totals fell for the third straight year, his strikeouts increased and his stolen base total was under 25. Not a good first start for the Yankees new leadoff man. I’ll give him a pass for runs scored as the Yankees were down here on a whole, and the lower stolen base total I dismiss as everyone has an off-year. The loss of walks and increase in strikeouts could be a problem going forward. Gardner is usually good for an average around .275 but if this trend continues we could see a drop here as well. He’s no longer the 23-year-old kid with a 93% contact rate, he a 30-year-old man who’s become set in his ways. With limited power and declining numbers he’s a risk to draft. He’ll give you decent run totals, 25 or so stolen bases and a run-of-the-mill batting average.